Friendship Charity Association is pleased to report on the successful project Comprehensive Environment and Health Initiative for Five Tibetan Communities. With the Canada Fund’s 240,958RMB (36,510USD), plus 291,435RMB (44,157USD) contributed locally in labor, this project is now directly benefiting 8,264 people (4,324 females; 3,940 males) in Qinghai Province, Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Guinan County, Shagou and Goumayin townships: Markam, Thawa, Banshul, Dongkor, Bon skor, Rabgan (all Tibetan), and Chana (Han) Villages.

Before this project, due to a lack of toilets, locals urinated and defecated in and near village households. Such conditions put humans, livestock, and dogs in close proximity, creating conditions for diseases to be transmitted between people and animals. In warmer months, the pungent smell of human feces wafted through the villages. This lack of toilets, particularly in resettled villages near local towns with limited open land, posed environmental hazards.

Construction of toilets in each village, combined with the provision of health awareness training by respected local doctors, increased villagers’ awareness of the link between the environment and their health, as well as directly improving living conditions. Fifty-seven toilets brought a safe, cleaner, and modern environment to locals. Now, locals no longer urinate and defecate on open ground. Animals and human no longer have close contact with waste that may transfer diseases. Human waste is concentrated in toilets and become natural fertilizers for cropland, reducing costs for chemical fertilizers and improving crop quality. Furthermore, health training held following the project on how and why to use the toilets, raised basic hygiene awareness. Locals, especially women, participated in reproductive health training and received a free medical examination. Instructions for medical treatment were given to those who have women’s diseases. Locals now better understand basic hygiene and sanitation.

Eighty solar cookers directly benefited 480 local Tibetans suffering from fuel shortages and reduced the amount of such fuels as coal, wood, and yak and sheep. Wood collection has been banned by the government. Many locals had been in trouble for collecting wood in the forest. Yak, cow, and sheep dung were the most common options in fuel collection, which required 3–4 hours daily of time and energy on the part of local women, and denied the land the nutrient value of the manure. In addition, cutting trees for firewood was contributing to severe deforestation, resulting in expansion of local desert and leading to increased land erosion. As a result of collecting wood near communities, severe erosion was occurring and associated flooding was jeopardizing local people’s safety. The installation of 80 solar cookers helped offset environmental degradation caused through deforestation and the previous unhealthy and environmentally damaging practice of burning yak dung indoors for fuel. Furthermore, women now have more time because fuel-collecting time is reduced. Women now pursue other family chores, improving their family’s condition.

Adequate flow of water was brought to 2 ethnically diverse neighboring communities. A small volume of pipe previously had shared between the two communities. Every household in these 2 communities now has adequate water and no longer travels 7-11km to fetch water. Each family originally planned to create gardens in their house yards but, due to late completion of the water project and weather conditions, it was postponed until next spring. This will allow families to plant more trees and flowers in and near their homes, improving the local microclimate and encouraging water filtration—increasing surface permeability and decreasing erosion. Furthermore, while initially digging the trenches for pipes altered the environment, this was temporary and mitigated by using the least damaging methods and conserving and replacing topsoil, turf, and ground cover.

Ninety percent of project participants were local women who were involved in all project activities and thus obtained various skills. They will be continuously applied to other work opportunities in the future. Local women are culturally responsible for obtaining water and cooking fuel. Many local girls were kept home to do family chores rather than attend school. Women farm, herd, haul water, collect fuel, marry, have children, and the cycle repeats itself. Local women rarely have the opportunity to directly experience the outside world.

This project brought substantial benefits to local women by reducing the total amount of hours a day formerly spent collecting water and fuel. The project increased the number of local girls able to attend school and ultimately find better jobs. Additionally, this project provided further training in health, which benefited the majority of local women and girls who previously lacked basic hygiene awareness exacerbated by a scarcity of water and few toilets.

In the course of project implementation, most locals from each village engaged in project planning and decision-making through meetings. In terms of the toilets, at least one member from each toilet recipient family participated in selecting the toilet location and its construction. Mostly women from each family assisted the toilet designer to help mix cement and sand and laid bricks throughout implementation of the toilet project. All family members were encouraged to monitor and give feedback on toilet construction. Consequently, many decisions and feedback opportunities were available to locals.
The project management committee consisted of both local women and men. A meeting was first held in each community during which locals were told to come up with list of nominees for project management committee members. Earlier, however, we had told locals that members should be capable, able to listen to and take direction, confident, and trustworthy. At the end of the meeting, we received a list of names (a staff member went to each person, who told the staff member the name without others hearing. This staff member wrote it down. Many locals are illiterate). Another approach was to ask locals if there were volunteers. There were usually several. If the number of volunteers was large, a lottery was conducted to reduce the number. Next, a task was assigned to each member. In the following days, the project monitor and field experts supervised their performance. Those who were difficult to work with were replaced with other volunteers on the list.

FCA used a participatory and community-based approach to monitor the project throughout. Implementation was facilitated by the fact FCA was founded locally and all its members are locals. The project manager worked closely with local people and participated in hands-on activities such as digging trenches, laying pipes, and transporting materials. Meanwhile, the project manager interviewed local women, children, elders, and men regarding the project. A number of questionnaires were prepared before and after the project to record data. Furthermore, Namjay Tsering wrote daily reports to track progress. Collectively, these approaches finalized and identified project results.

The project will continue without external assistance. All projects elements were financially supported once and further cost is unforeseen. If a future problem arises, the local communities will discuss with FCA and solve the problem within the communities. Locals are now equipped with basic skills to repair problems. Villagers are responsible in monitoring and maintaining project results. Since FCA members themselves come from local communities, FCA has agreed to continue to monitor project sites for 5 years following project completion, on a twice-yearly basis.

For more information about Friendship Charity Association, see